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Judge postpones John Ford trial to next year

Judge postpones John Ford trial to next year
By ERIK SCHELZIG
Associated Press Writer
NASHVILLE (AP) — A federal judge on Friday agreed to postpone the latest trial of former state Sen. John Ford until March to give his defense more time to pore over thousands of documents.
Ford is accused of taking $800,000 in consultant payments from private contractors with TennCare while using his position as a state senator to promote those contractors’ interests.
The Memphis Democrat’s attorney, Isaiah Gant, said he did not have enough time to review thousands of pages of legislative history in time for the trial that had been scheduled to begin early next month.
U.S. District Todd J. Campbell agreed to set the new trial for March 4, with the understanding that Ford’s attorney won’t ask for another extension unless some “extraordinary circumstances” arise.
Federal prosecutors, who did not oppose the motion to delay, said they expect their part of the trial will take up to two weeks.
Campbell noted that Ford is scheduled to report to prison in Texas in December on his conviction in a separate case, which could make logistics for the current trial more difficult.
“It wouldn’t be the first defendant who was incarcerated during trial, so I don’t mean to blow it out of proportion,” Campbell said.
Gant said he has not yet decided whether to ask a federal judge in Memphis to postpone the start of Ford’s 5 1/2-year prison sentence.
Ford, who declined to comment to reporters after Friday’s hearing, was convicted in April of taking $55,000 in bribes during the Tennessee Waltz investigation.
Gant showed the judge six bankers boxes full of documents provided to him by the prosecution and said they did not include at least 3,600 more pages of electronic records he hadn’t yet printed out.
“There are a great deal of material that covers hearings of legislative issues that have nothing to do with this case,” Gant said.
Sifting through the paperwork to find transcripts and documents relevant to building a defense is “the largest hurdle” for preparing for trial, he said.
Published in The Messenger 10.22.07

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